Jason Gillespie understands fears – expressed by Michael Holding last week – that teams failing to take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter could mean cricket risks losing momentum in the fight against racism.
Following Holding’s criticism of the Australia and England teams for not taking a knee in support of the movement during their limited-overs series, Gillespie – who is of Indigenous Australian descent – said he was in favour of doing so, but he was also confident that Cricket Australia and the ECB were committed to positive change.
“I think it’s a nice gesture, I think it’s powerful,” Gillespie told ESPNcricinfo.
“I saw Michael Holding make the comment. I think his worry is that it’s been a gesture and a very good gesture but it will get forgotten if it’s not continually out there reminding people. I’m sensing that’s what he feels, he wants to continue the story.
“I think everyone would agree that things have happened in this world, people make a gesture and then it gets forgotten. So Michael’s thoughts, and I agree with what he’s saying, is let’s keep the gesture going, let’s keep the intent and keep it at the forefront of people’s minds and then we can keep having the conversations to inspire real change. And I susbscribe to that. I think he makes a good point.
“However, I understand the Australian and England teams. They gave their reasons, they’re talking about education and moving forward. I think there’s genuine want and desire, both from the ECB and Cricket Australia and however they go about it, as long as we see genuine commitment to that, I think we can all hopefully move forward and see meaningful change.”
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Holding’s comments prompted Australia coach Justin Langer to acknowledge that his side did not commit enough time to learning about the issue before making a decision.
But the remarks also drew a reaction from Jofra Archer, who claimed Holding “doesn’t know anything that is going on behind the scenes” and that progress was being made “in the background”.
Speaking about the movement ahead of the tour to England, Aaron Finch, Australia’s captain, said that “education around it is more important than the protest”.
On the decision by Australia and England not to take a knee, Gillespie said: “I was a little bit surprised they didn’t do it, however, they explained – Cricket Australia, the ECB – I think there is genuine intent for change.”
Gillespie, who is Archer’s coach at Sussex, recently stood up for his player on Twitter, branding the racist abuse Archer faces on social media as a “disgrace”.
“It’s just assumed that you have to look a certain way to be someone”
Gillespie also identified with the experiences of another Indigenous Australian cricketer, Dan Christian, who has spoken of having his Aboriginality questioned, based on his appearance, in what he described as “casual racism”.
“I can understand where Dan’s coming from,” Gillespie said. “I can remember having a similar experience at a function in the UK. It’s a bit annoying, however I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, the subject came up, I mentioned that I’m Indigenous and I was acknowledged as the first Aboriginal male Test cricketer in Australia.
“And a couple of these people looked at me and said: ‘Really? Surely not.’ And I said: ‘What’s the issue? I think I know who I am, I’m of Aboriginal descent. I was the first acknowledged male Test cricketer of Aboriginal descent in Australian cricket.’
“And they’re basically questioning me, they’re saying, ‘No, no you’re not, you can’t be, you don’t look Aboriginal’. I said, ‘Well, I know who I am’. And then I just left it. That’s one experience I had because it’s just assumed that you have to look a certain way to be someone.”
Gillespie said he could empathise with British people of Asian descent who are born in the UK but are then questioned when they say they come from their birthplace.
“It just comes down to education,” Gillespie said. “That situation that I was in, I genuinely don’t think there was any malice intended or any negativity, but the education needs to be better.
“I know I don’t look like the stereotypical Indigenous person that people would see. I get that. But it’s that naivety that I suppose can be, and I’m assuming is, a real frustration for people.
“I assume for people here in the UK, British Asians, that frustration, that ‘Why can’t you just accept the fact that I am born and bred here? This is my country. This is what I look like. This is who I am. Just be happy for who I am.'”
To Gillespie, the solution is simple: “Everyone, just be accepting of everyone. We can cloud these issues over and over again but surely just keeping things simple, just accept people for who they are and everyone have a smile on their face and move on. It can’t be that difficult.”
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